Easy Vegan Lemon Bars

By Jessica Hylton -

Vegan Lemon Bars are a dessert dream come true! Made with shortbread crust and loaded with tangy lemon flavor, you’d never guess that these easy lemon squares are vegan!

Sliced lemon bars with halved lemon slices.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Vegan Lemon Bars, aka lemon squares (… what do you call them?), have been highly requested (endless requests) since I began Jessica in the Kitchen. After making them myself, I finally understand why. These vegan lemon squares are DIVINE!

These dessert bars are equal parts bright, tart, and sweet, and they will blow your mind! Their fresh, zesty flavor makes them the perfect treat for summer, even though I will definitely be making them year-round. The moment you sink your teeth into the buttery shortbread crust topped with the soft, lemon-meringue-type filling, you’ll know why I love these bars so much.

Enough said, let’s get to baking and tasting!

Notes on the Ingredients

Ingredients for vegan lemon bars.

Let’s talk ingredients! I wanted the baking process to be easy (i.e., you and I not having to use three kinds of sugar) so I included maple syrup into the crust, too.

For the Shortbread Crust

  • Flour: I used all purpose flour, but you can use gluten free if needed.
  • Maple Syrup: As I mentioned above, this will add sweetness to the dessert without you having to use a bunch of other sugars.
  • Oil: Keep in mind you may have to use a little extra if the crust looks too dry.

For the Lemon Filling

  • Cashews: You’ll need raw, unsalted cashews. Soak them in hot water for at least 1 hour before starting.
  • Coconut Cream: From a tin of coconut cream or milk. Use the thick creamy part, NOT the coconut water.
  • Cornstarch: To thicken up the filling so that it will sit properly on top of the crust.
  • Lemon Juice and Zest: They are lemon bars, after all. I recommend using the juice and zest of a fresh lemon.
  • Maple Syrup
  • Vanilla Extract: To add sweetness that will complement the maple syrup.
  • Sea Salt: To balance and enhance the sweet flavor of these bars.
  • Turmeric: For the pretty yellow color!

How to Make Vegan Lemon Bars

Making these vegan maple lemon bars won’t take you long at all. There’s just 3 easy steps that you’ll need to follow to complete the shortbread crust, and then you can get started on the filling!

For the Shortbread Crust

Preheat the Oven to 350°F/180°C: Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, so that the paper hangs over the side for easy removal.

Combine the Crust Ingredients: Mix all of the crust ingredients together with a spatula or your hands, until it sticks together. Press evenly into the baking dish. Add the extra tablespoon of oil if it is too dry.

step by step making of the lemon bars

Bake the Crust: Bake for 10 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before adding the batter for the lemon filling on top.

step by step making of the lemon bars

For the Lemon Filling

Blend the Ingredients: In a high powered blender, add all of the lemon filling ingredients. For the turmeric, start with ⅛ teaspoon then add more if you desire (it doesn’t add any taste, only colour). Blend all of the ingredients together until the mixture is very smooth. If you’re not using a high powered blender, blend another time to ensure all of the cashew pieces are completely blended. Taste test, and adjust if necessary.

step by step making of the lemon bars

Add the Filling to the Crust: Once the crust has cooled, pour the filling on top. Tap on the counter lightly to remove any bubbles.

Lemon filling poured onto shortbread crust.

Bake: Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until the centre is set. Allow to cool completely on the counter (about an hour), and then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set. Top with powdered sugar (optional), cut into bars, and serve. Enjoy!!

step by step making of the lemon bars

Tips for Success

Lemon bars are a supremely easy dessert to mix together, especially when you’re aware of a couple of helpful tips. These are some of the things I do to ensure that I get tender yet crisp lemon bars every time I make them:

  • Let them set in the fridge. I know it’s hard, but these need to be fully set before you cut into them. Trust me. When I made them, I let them cool for a few hours and then set in the fridge overnight, although 4 hours in the fridge should be enough time. They’ll have the right consistency and be even more delectable. Trust me – the wait will be worth it!
  • If you can’t find coconut cream… put 1 can (14 ounces) of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. After being refrigerated overnight, Scoop the solids of the coconut cream out of the jar, then pour off (or save for later) the coconut water left behind. They should come out to about ¾ cup every time from a 14 ounce can.
  • Use kitchen tools to press the crust into the pan. You can use a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup to help you do this. The crust will seem a bit sticky because of the maple syrup, so just using your hands might be a challenge.
  • They’re taste-test friendly: This is probably my favorite reason to make these lemon bars. Figuring out how tangy or sweet you want these bars really comes down to personal preference, so you get to taste while you bake. Just make sure you have enough lemon filling at the end to cover the crust!
Vegan lemon squares with powdered sugar.

Serving Suggestions

  • Sprinkle some powdered sugar over the tops – it looks pretty and tastes great!
  • Chop up some strawberries (or other berries) to place on top of them, or make yourself a raspberry syrup!
  • Finally, if you’ve got guests to impress, you can decorate with lemon slices. Just cut circular slices of lemon, place one on top of each bar, dust with a little powdered sugar, and you’re done!

How to Store Lemon Bars

I like to store these lemon bars in an airtight or covered container in the fridge for up to a week. Now, I’ve never had them last to the end of the week, but that’s your hypothetical expiration date!

Can I Freeze These Lemon Bars?

Definitely. Freeze these lemon bars between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag for 1-2 months. Thaw them overnight in the fridge before enjoying again.

Stack of 3 vegan lemon bars.
Sliced lemon bars with halved lemon slices.

Easy Vegan Lemon Bars

These Vegan Lemon Bars are a dessert dream come true! Made with shortbread crust and loaded with tangy lemon flavor, you’d never guess that these lemon squares are vegan!
by: Jessica in the Kitchen
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Course Desserts
Cuisine American
Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 cup flour (148g) gluten free if needed
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (30mL)
  • ¼ cup oil +1 extra tablespoon if it looks too dry

Lemon Filling

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews (148g), soaked in hot water for at least 1 hour
  • ¾ cup coconut cream from a tin of full fat coconut cream or milk – the thick creamy part, NOT the coconut water*
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch (30g)
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup +1 tablespoon maple syrup (60mL)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • teaspoon of sea salt
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon turmeric for colour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
Instructions

Instructions

Crust

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
  • Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, so that the paper hangs over the side for easy removal.
  • Mix all of the crust ingredients together with a spatula or your hands, until it sticks together. Press evenly into the baking dish. You can use a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup to help you. It’ll seem a bit sticky because of the maple syrup. Add the extra tablespoon of oil if it is too dry.
  • Bake for 10 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before adding the batter for the lemon filling on top.

Lemon Filling

  • In a high powered blender, add all of the lemon filling ingredients. For the turmeric, start with ⅛ teaspoon then add more if you desire (it doesn’t add any taste, only colour).
  • Blend all of the ingredients together until the mixture is very smooth. If you’re not using a high powered blender, blend another time to ensure all of the cashew pieces are completely blended. Taste test, and adjust if necessary
  • Once the crust has cooled, pour the filling on top. Tap on the counter lightly to remove any bubbles.
  • Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until the centre is set. Allow to cool on the counter until completely cooled (about an hour), and then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.
  • Top with powdered sugar (optional), cut into bars, and serve. Enjoy!!
NOTES
*If you can’t find coconut cream, add 1 can (14 ounces) full fat coconut milk, in the fridge overnight. After being refrigerated overnight, turn the can upside down and and pour out the coconut water liquid on top. Then scoop the solids of the coconut cream out of the jar. They should come up to about ¾ cup every time from a 14 ounce can.

Nutrition

Calories: 185kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 20mg | Potassium: 72mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1mg
by Jessica

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Recipe Rating




29 comments

  1. Shilpa says:

    Do you have any shortbread crusts that doesn’t use coconut oil? I hate the taste of coconut oil and am very sensitive even to a small amount.

  2. Anna says:

    Love it! I would use potato starch to reduce the calories💜

  3. Celine says:

    5 stars
    Very yummy! I haven’t made lemon squares since going vegan over five years ago so it was very exciting to have a lemon square after all this time!! I really loved how the coconut cream and cashews added a smooth creamy texture to them. Will definitely be making these again!

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Thanks so much Celine! We’re so happy that you like it!

  4. Judy says:

    5 stars
    Made these and I am in love!!!! So easy to do and completely delicious! Thank you for this recipe 🙂

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Thanks so much Judy! So happy that you enjoyed them.

  5. Anjali Manghnani says:

    Hi Jessica,

    do you think I could use almonds instead of cashews as my kids are allergic to cashewnuts?

    • Gavin | Jessica in the Kitchen says:

      Hi Anjali. Thank you for reading. We haven’t tried it so I can’t advise completely, but I don’t think it will be the same texture.

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